Postseason prep

Russ Smith, Shabazz Napier

Shabazz Napier, left, looks for help from the defense of Louisville’s Russ Smith during the first half of Saturday’s game in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Made a quick visit to Storrs today for a chat with the Huskies before they head to Memphis and the American Athletic Conference tourney.

Here’s some quotes from the particulars:

— AFTER A ONE-YEAR “planned” absence UConn is back in the postseason. There’s something “right” about that in the Huskies’ eyes.

“It feels good. It feels like this is where we were meant to be,” Shabazz Napier said. “It was kind of weird not being in the postseason last year but now we’re here. It just feels like we have a great opportunity and we have to make the best of it.”

It’s time to set the clocks back. Err, forward. Err, the records.

“It’s a new day. It’s the fourth quarter,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “We had preseason. We had out of conference. We had conference. Now this is the fourth season. Now everybody’s zero and zero.”

UConn opens with Memphis late Thursday night.

“They’re a great team. They’ve been playing outstanding basketball the last few weeks,” Ollie said. “I don’t think they’ve lost on their home court since we beat them. I think they’re 9-0.

“It’s going to be a feat. It’s going to be a task. But if we stay together, I like our chances,” Ollie said.

A postseason run is what Ollie has in mind, however.

“We won some great games this season and there’s no reason not to believe,” Ollie said. “I think these guys have the mindset that they can get it done, win three in a row against three great teams. But first and foremost we have to take care of Memphis.”

— THE AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE will reveal its player (and coach and rookie) of the year Wednesday.

It looks like Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick is going to take top honors.

Will Napier be upset if he doesn’t win?

“Nah, I don’t care. I’m more invested in winning championships. I’m not into individual awards,” Napier said. “I’d rather win a championship.”

After all, Napier’s predecessor as UConn’s point guard, Kemba Walker, was never given such honors, be it conference or national.

“They gave it to Jimmer (Fredette) that year. And Kemba was happy to have the championship that Jimmer doesn’t have now. It’s OK,” Napier said.

So who does Napier think will win in the conference?

“It’s definitely up in the air. I think Sean Kilpatrick definitely played well. He had a lot of help with Justin Jackson being most improved. Russ Smith definitely played well. Nic Moore, as well. He definitely turned that team around,” Napier said.

Ollie thinks his star will handle the result well.

“When they come out, if your name isn’t chosen, of course you’re a little down for a second,” Ollie said. “But then you get back up and you know it’s all about the team anyway.”

— THE LOUISVILLE GAME is in the rear-view mirror for these Huskies. Even Ollie cracked a small smile when talking about it Monday.

“If you coach long enough you’re going to go through games like that,” Ollie said. “That’s what the big kahuna told me today.”

We’re assuming the big kahuna is Jim Calhoun.



About Neill

Neill Ostrout covers the UConn men's basketball team for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. He has been a member of the "Horde" for more than 16 years.
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